Opinion—2021 F1 Finale, Abu Dhabi GP

“motor racing” you say 🤨?

So—I’m a mediocre formula one fan, but it was without a doubt an amazing season. The top two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went into the last race tied in points. I had a chance to watch the final race of the season and was super disappointed with the outcome. Not because one driver or another won (I’m a Ricciardo fan), but because how inconsistent officiating interfered with performances on the track, and ultimately, impacted the outcome of the race. 

99% of the race was honestly pretty dull. There was a little excitement at the start, but the only real excitement after that was when Checo Perez (the other Red Bull team car) was able to strategically battle with Hamilton for a few laps, allowing Verstappen to catch them. That said, after Hamilton passed Checo he was able to pull away from Verstappen again. This event ultimately did not have an significant impact on the race outcome.

The part of the race that truly bothered me was after the caution came out for Latifi’s crash. By this time, Hamilton was around 11-12 seconds ahead of Verstappen. During this process, Hamilton lapped a handful of cars—putting them between himself and Verstappen—meaning Verstappen was unable to lap these cars before the caution came out. From my understanding, the race steward, Michael Masi initially announced they were not going to allow the lapped cars to regain their position on the lead lap, meaning lapped cars would stay between Hamilton and Verstappen for the final restart. However, at the last second, the race steward decided to let the only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen back onto the lead lap, meaning they were able to pass Hamilton to finish on the lead lap of the race. The rest of the drivers (my guy included) were not allowed to get back on the lead lap. This put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton, creating a one lap shoot out to finish the race. While this makes for great television, the decision- making behind this kind of move by the race steward was incredibly problematic. 

Why it was objectively unethical:
Okay, so here’s why what the race steward did was super effed-up. It goes without saying late cautions always make things more spicy when it comes to racing. Both teams in the championship hunt were making in the moment strategic decisions based off the feedback they were getting from race control. When the caution came out and the steward indicated that lapped cars would be kept between Hamilton and Verstappen that was a major inflection point for both teams. For Mercedes (Hamilton’s team) the belief was that Hamilton could hold off Verstappen for a lap on old tires given they would have a handful of lapped cars separating them. Why risk a problem in the pits when it wouldn’t be necessary? Why risk letting Verstappen get ahead—because if Mercedes would have stopped for tires Red Bull would have obviously stayed out, putting Verstappen ahead of Hamilton. For Red Bull (Verstappen’s team) they had absolutely nothing to lose and more or less got a free pit stop for fresh tires since the course was under caution and they knew Verstappen needed a miracle (and more or less voiced that on the radio) to get around all the lapped cars in time. Of course, both teams were screaming at the steward on the radio in real time—why this is allowed I have no idea. Red Bull had nothing to lose by lobbying the race director to flip flop on his decision knowing Mercedes was out there on worn out tires—politics 101—but again, both teams reacted based off the initial feedback from the director about how the restart would be handled… And who knows how Mercedes was arguing the opposite to influence the initial call by race control? That ultimately doesn’t matter. What I’m objectively critiquing here is the initial call that went out about how lapped cars would be handled for all of the teams. This is the only actionable decision making information the race teams had at this time. Whether Masi made the right call on the lappers initially is irrelevant—that has more to do with his understanding of the rules and is a separate conversation that needs to happen. Masi made a call as a race manager and teams reacted accordingly. Then he changed the call at the last second. That’s wrong.

So, when at the last second the race steward unexpectedly let only selected lap cars through (a-hem…again, not legal based on my understanding) the strategy for one team was totally undermined. This effectively put the two fastest cars head to head in literally the last seconds before the green flag, but one was on fresh soft tires and the other was on worn out hard tires. I’m sorry, but that shit just ain’t right. I humbly ask you here to remove fandom from the equation and look at the situation objectively.

Of course, the Mercedes team has protested and blah blah blah and the rest will be history—and nothing can change the outcome and what we saw go down in real time. I guess one thing that really bothers me about this is how blatantly unethical it was. A race steward cannot flip-flop on a critical decision in real time because teams have already made race-determining decisions based off the original feedback given. You can’t walk that back without screwing someone in a strategic game. Something that really stuck in my craw as a former small-time dirt track racer was when the steward said “that’s motor car racing” to the Mercedes principal after the race. It’s hard for me to believe this race steward has ever been a race driver—I could be wrong, though—couldn’t find that info online. We say “that’s a racing incident” or “that’s racing” in the U.S.—And that exclusively refers to shit that happens on track between drivers. I’ve been involved in many “racing incidents”—most of them end with broken equipment and pissed off people. We saw “racing incidents” between these two drivers on track all year that race control did weigh on on—after the fact. This obviously also impacted the outcome of this championship, but in those instances we all saw what went down on track before race control did anything to impact points outcomes. Race control also had the benefit of replay to reflect on their decision to insure it was correct. What happened at the end of this race was pre-meditated meddling. That is not “motor car racing”— that is unethical race management by the steward (I’m not going to go as far as using the the C word here, but yeah pretty much). This is the worst possible scenario for drivers because it’s demoralizing and ultimately undermines their ability to truly own their victories, which is what they get paid the big bucks to do.

Again, this is just stupid racing and there’s so much else going on in the world that’s more important, but I had to exercise this in writing this because it kept popping into my head over and over again and I want it out. I think it’s probably because it’s a metaphor for so many other injustices in our world when unqualified or unethical people are put into positions of power—or are influenced politically by other power entities. Ethics and fairness seem to go out the window. If you’re going to ask the drivers put their lives on the line to put on a show, respect the race (even if the outcome isn’t as sexy as it could be for the fans or tv ratings), be steady with decisions, and stay the eff out of the way. I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff about this driver or that driver getting robbed (most of them live in Monaco and earn lots of money—I think they’ll be ok), but even though this outcome was stimulating it was the fans that ultimately got robbed. F1 isn’t the WWE. Stuff like this does nothing but undermine the integrity of the sport and insult the drivers in my humble opinion.

Since F1 dropped the ball on this, I’d say let’s put Hamilton and Verstappen in a 5 lap head to head shootout at the Chili Bowl Nationals to decide it once and for all, but that’s just me. 






 

🏎 + 📒 + 📖 + 🧾

Campania—Napoli & Pompeii

As seen on an instagram feed near you 👆


(Napoli)


(Pompeii)

all the powerful and vibrant experiences all the time…

Yes, we at the pizza—and yes, it was that good. And yes, we took photos of the pizza, but you won’t find any of them here. Truth is, every flavor we experienced in Campania was as strong and vibrant as the incredible food. That said, I’d say not all the flavors we experienced were particularly appetizing, but strong and vibrant—absolutely!

Since I posted the photos of Napoli first I’ll start there. Napoli might be the most unique city I’ve ever visited. Everything about it is in your face. Everything is moving fast all the time. And if you stop on the street for any amount of time you’re going to be in someone’s way … and they’re going to let you know about it. Not it a mean way, just in a matter-of-fact GTF out of my way hand gesture, yell, or horn beep. I’ve never seen scooters ridden the way I’ve seen them ridden in Napoli. They make scooter riders in Roma look tame. Pitch dark, 70 KMH down wet, slippery cobble stone streets blowing blind intersections without much more than a beep on the horn for warning. Cars parked on on the sidewalks so there’s nowhere to walk but in the narrow streets—you get the idea. In our exploration of the city we found very few places to step back and take things in. That’s tough because there is just so damn much to look at. The city screams at you from every direction. I underestimated what it would be like until we flew over it on the way in. Once I saw the scale and density of the place I knew we were in for an experience. My Italian is nowhere near where it should be after living in Italy for almost a year, but I was grateful for the language skills I did have—and even more grateful for Amanda’s superior skills—we worked well as a team to communicate and make our way around the city. Napoli is full of vibrant colors, personalities, street art, etc…but there’s also a lot of darkness that can be felt there. Even the stones the roads and many of the building are made of are dark in color—I suspect this is because of the volcanic activity in the area, but I’d need to confirm that. There was a strong Memento Mori vibe and we got the feeling that people were ok with living fast and dangerously. It was both attractive and exhausting at the same time—like a candle burning at both ends.

Not surprisingly, those strong vibes carried over into Pompeii ruins. This was an absolutely incredible experience that far surpassed both mine and Amanda’s expectations. We took a 45-minute Circumvesuviana train from Napoli to the site of the ruins—this was efficient, but super crowded. The scale of the city and how well it was preserved was unbelievable. So much so, that I found it very easy to imagine having lived there…and while it’s not the same at all I think the ongoing global pandemic made what happened there feel somehow more plausible and real. The last image in the photo layout is a view of Pompeii with Vesuvius (Vesuvio) looming in the background. It’s so easy to imagine a thriving city, especially after having just come from Napoli, where the specter of Vesuvio is always there on the horizon. Amanda and I were hypothesizing maybe that’s where the live fast and dangerously vibes we felt were coming from? Or maybe it was just Vesuvio projecting that on to us? Either way, the trip was a shocking contrast to our day to day here in the coutryside north of Venice, although we more or less have our own man-made Vesuvio here with the NATO airbase nearby. Bring out the Memento Mori, people.

I was hoping to post these earlier, but I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to process the photos and reflect a bit on our experiences in Campania. I hope we get to go back soon—there is so much more we want to explore. That’s all for now—Ciao.

📸 + 🚶‍♂️ + 🌈

When a sketch gets its wings: coffee & culture edition

I goofily drew this in my sketchbook the other day and just wanted to make it a thing, so here it is—before and after! P.S. It’s about more than just coffee—maybe more about contrasting ideas of our collective notions of intensity and taste (taste…when it comes to flavor, economy and style). For what it’s worth, I love espresso, but I have also been known to drink gas station coffee in the U.S. when it’s all that’s available—maybe I’m not the one to trust with these delicate matters of taste 😀 —Ciao!

☕️ + 🤔

Loading 120 Film (the hard way):

I few days ago I was removing and loading film into my Yashicamat 124G and thought it would be fun to document the process as a piece of my “the hard way series” on instagram. I also posted the images above as examples of the stark clarity 120 format film can yield due to its larger size. This is only the second installment in the THW series—loading film is a companion to the more extensive screenprinting demo I made about a year ago. These are all just shot raw with my phone with no real editing or rehearsal, I think they’re rough, but fun to make and share. It’s always a fun challenge to verbally walk through a process in a way that makes it easy and fun for someone to follow.

📸 + 👋

Facebook Co. changes name to Meta

my brief, imperfect thoughts on a very imperfect situation

I originally posted this on my Instagram and wanted to make it a part of my archive here. That said, this is my opinion and I respect if yours is different.

The thing about facebook’s meta mark is how flexible it is—easy to work into secondary applications…like this little piece of immaturity above from my sketchbook. The thing is, seeing it on my WhatsApp and IG load screens was kinda chilling. People will gradually accept the name change and we’ll all get on with it—and I can see why they would want to change it as an umbrella brand for their products. But it’s a big deal when a company this big and with this much sway just up and hits the “delete everything” switch. Admittedly—I do that sometimes on IG because of my complex sharing relationship with this platform going back to the skeuomorphic polaroid frame days—Facebook acquiring the platform made things even more complex. I’m one dude in a sea of users—this is no excuse. I depend on messenger and WhatsApp to communicate with my family as someone living overseas—fact is these platforms work better than traditional phone services. I thought long and hard on this and I’m not getting off platforms like WhatsApp and IG now because I was here before FB was (this, however is subject to change). That said, changing the name / logo doesn’t fix anything and I feel it’s insulting to users because they can see through the gimmicks in the launch materials outlining how amazing the ill-appropriated metaverse will be (or already is I suppose). What it really is: a scary, sort of band-aided patched together distorted “reality.” Ugh. I don’t want to be a part of it.

If they wanted to make it right they would have made this entire relaunch a come to Jesus convo with users about their mistakes as platform developers and our mistakes as users—from the beginning. And believe me, we users are culpable in this thing as well. I was a freshman in college when the native Facebook platform launched—it was an exciting, naive, and stupid time. Nobody knew because there was really no context, but now we have over a decade of context—and it ain’t pretty. I can see it was a ton of work to put all this together and it’s no surprise it’s good because really talented people worked on it. It feels like a desperate, borrowed new coat of paint and not a strip down rebuild, which is badly needed IMO. My aim is not to offend any people I’ve known that work, or have worked at the company. I know you all work hard and it’s oh so easy to spout opinions.

🤔 + ✍️ + 📱

Navigating Ruts

ruts…

Seems like most conversations we hear about ruts tend to be negative when it comes to living life…”I’m stuck in a rut,” “get out of that rut,” etc… About a month ago I traveled back to West Texas to see my family for a week. I haven’t seen them in person in over a year. It was a long trip from Italy, but totally worth it. Every time I go back I ride dirtbikes as much as possible—we have three dirtbikes on our family’s 13 acre property. This was the piece of land I learned how to ride on (my dad, uncle, and aunt learned to ride here, too). It always feels nostalgic in the best ways to get back out there. It was a great place to learn because the terrain is difficult. It’s dry, slippery, and rocky as hell. You have to learn bike control skills quickly in terrain like this… You have to become an expert terrain reader, always looking ahead for the next crash-causing rock. I went out for several sessions by myself, re-working a classic motocross-style track we made years ago. As I rode my comfort level increased. With more comfort my speed increased and pretty serious ruts and berms began to form. I walked the track after one of my rides to see what I could learn and took the photographs above. In reflecting on the photos I started thinking about the benefits of ruts—first within the context of racing and technique, but then within the broader context of life. I grew up on dirtbikes and racing open wheel dirt track cars (sprint cars / midgets). I’ll start by saying ruts can be very dangerous in racing—cross rutting on a motorcycle at high speed or hitting a rut too hard or at the wrong angle in a sprint car can cause catastrophic crashes (we call this biking or bicycling). But when ruts are used properly they can propel you forward by providing traction and a viable racing line. In a perfect world, we’d always race on a pristine surface, but when conditions get bad or there are other people on the track ruts are inevitable—we all have to deal with them. I’d venture to say the racing surface in “life” is rarely, if ever pristine. Whether a rut is a good or bad thing depends totally on how it is navigated. If we’re lucky we’ll be presented with a few viable ruts to choose from that are in the competitive racing line. Due to intentional structural inequities and a host of other things outside an individual’s control, some people start with ruts that are more difficult to navigate than others—this has been well documented and supported with legitimate data. In racing, we navigate the ruts on a track over and over again…and they change with time, traffic, and conditions. On a motorcycle, the intuitive impulse when you get into a rut (especially in a turn or if the dirt is soft or sandy) is to let off the gas and put your feet out for balance (it’s scary). This is a bad move that generally leads to a crash. Ironically, more throttle and an aggressive body posture yields a greater sense of control and balance when moving through the rut—with that comes confidence to go faster. All that being said, it’s interesting in life when we hear about getting out of the proverbial rut. It doesn’t really add up for me. What happens when you get out of a rut in racing? Well, when the rut is in the racing groove outside the rut is generally a pretty shitty place to be—soft, slippery, unstable, slow—largely un-known terrain. It’s where all the garbage lands that is thrown from the racing line (in circle track racing we call this space “the marbles”—the marbles are slippery AF). If you hit the marbles hard this usually leads to a high speed collision with the wall. I can attest to this from personal experience. Maybe it’s not so much about getting out of the rut and more about how it is navigated—and how we set the car or motorcycle up for the conditions and rider/driver. The idea is to use the characteristics of the rut to our advantage to increase speed and traction. We cannot avoid the ruts if we want to be competitive. But…there comes a time when the rut gets too deep—or someone in the race finds a faster rut—or your equipment start wearing out. So, knowing when it’s time to abandon the rut you’ve been in to find a faster line is also crucial. I guess you could look at a career track or a relationship as a kind of rut (not strictly in the bad sense). How these things are navigated dictate their success or failure—confidence is essential when the fear center in the brain is saying slow down, but the safer move is to go faster. Making a major life decision is like changing ruts. Transition over unknown terrain is never comfortable, but sometimes necessary. Constantly reading the track surface and rationally checking in with yourself and your equipment is the only way to really know.

🏍 + 🤔

Designy-Mind: a Weekend in Milano

Milano, Milan, Jarred Elrod, Graphic Design and Photography

As seen on your local instagram feed 👀 ☝️

a weekend of walking + thinking

Milan—what an amazing place. I was invited by my friend and talented designer / design educator Bob Liuzzo to attend a lecture at the Institute of European Design (IED). During that time I was super fortunate to meet Armando Milani and Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini of Zetafonts—what an amazing experience! This was the first design related public event I have attended since our last Ligature Event at the University of Florida that was held in person almost two years ago. Given my status at the UF is on leave at the moment, attending this event brought up a mixed feelings. I felt grateful to be there, in person—with people again talking and thinking about design! On the flip side I felt some real FOMO about not being part of these types of things right now happening at UF. I was there alone for more or less the first two days of the trip (Amanda joined me later). I spent a good deal of time walking the city with my camera reflecting on the mixed emotions I had during the design lecture, which I attended shortly after arriving in the city. As you can see from my photos, I spent most of my time looking up, but did pause to check that my feet were still on the ground on more that one occasion (photographed above).

Milan is a city that culturally / visually / architecturally synthesizes the old and the new—it’s a huge place, but super easy to get around because of the amazing public transportation system. This allowed me to literally explore all over the city on foot in one full day…from the Vertical Forest to the ADI Design Museum (both photographed above). My mood was admittedly a little dark as I walked around the city mentally wresting with complex thoughts of career, creativity, direction, loss, hanging on / letting go, etc… Because of this, I decided to shoot black and white—just looking for opportunities to capture striking frames of light and form. The energy of the city during the day felt good. I chose to lead the post with the image of the Duomo revealing itself as you come out of the subway tunnel. If you’ve ever visited NYC and remember the first time you came out of the subway into Times Square, being presented with the Duomo as the first thing you see is a similar experience. It’s just an unbelievable structure—and it photographs really well on a clear day because of how it contrasts with the blue sky.

We’re coming up on almost a year in Italy, which is really hard for me to Believe. My work more or less felt normal through the Summer because of the rhythms of the academic schedule. Now that we’re into Fall it feels weird not to be teaching design. I’m supplementing income by substitute teaching at the middle/highschool on the Airbase. It does feel good to be back in a classroom in person, but it feels nothing like what I was doing before. The experience of breaking away from what I’ve been doing for the last decade (like the lecture) has brought up a ton of mixed feelings. There are feelings I’ve had about academia for a long time that have been validated in both positive and negative ways. Mostly I miss the students and the feeling of using my mind (one could call it creative problem solving, I guess) to facilitate challenge and growth amongst young designers. I don’t miss the university industrial complex—and we’ll just leave it at that. It’s tough to make sense of those feelings, although I’m working hard to do so. I’m lucky to have such a supportive environment and partner to be able to have the extreme privilege to wrestle with these thoughts. I was listening to an episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman the other day—Debbie was interviewing Ethan Hawke and he said something to the effect of “everything is good when you are serving the art, it gets tough when you want the art to serve you.” That really resonated with me as I sit here trying to figure out what I’m going to do. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of expecting what you do or have done to serve you in some way. We all do this when we post personal stuff on instagram, or worse, engineer something not totally accurate about ourselves looking for the likes—nobody ever gets real validation no matter how many likes it gets. It’s probably why social media makes us feel like shit most of the time. Hawke went on to say his career always came out of ruts when he remembered to serve his art regardless of what the return might look like—be it financial, notoriety, etc. This is something that’s easy to say and hard to do—especially when it comes to financial realities. Total trust in the process—moving through, not around the discomfort with intention—all the things so many folks talk about—myself included. That’s all for now, but I’ll be pulling on this thread again soon.

Things I brought back from Milan—all things that have nothing to do with Milan 😂. Photographed in color above: 1) A football team scarf for Calcio Catania, made by my friend and talented designer/educator Bob Liuzzo (part of his amazing Catania Project) 2) 120 and 35mm film for my favorite film cameras found at a great little hole in the wall camera shop called Fotomateriale 3) dice gifted to me by Bob from the Logolounge / Bill Gardner lecture at IED Milano. Whew, lots of links there.

📸 + ✍️ + 🌃

MXoN 2021 Photo Essay: Weekend Impressions from an American Spectator

Photo Samples from MXoN 2021 from Jarred Elrod

NOTE: A version of this post was published on VURBMOTO, but this version has a more bonus photos peppered in. Also, grab a little more context about my family’s history with motorsports & its influence on me as a designer here as a primer for this if interested. Hope you enjoy!

2021 MXoN in Context: 

Mantova Motocross Track, 2021

Ok, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. This was my first in-person Motocross of Nations, so it’s impossible for me to accurately compare 2021 to previous events except for what I’ve seen from past photos and videos. This year’s event was well attended and the environment was fantastic, but as one might expect there were fewer spectators there than in previous events. Yes—it was personally disappointing when I found out teams from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico were unable to field teams. That said, as someone who loves motocross the thought of not going because 4 teams dropped out of 37 total never crossed my mind. I live just two hours North of the venue near Venice, Italy and this was still a global motocross event—the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.

Italian Moto Fans at Mantova

Ok, now for some good news. Let’s start out by acknowledging there was no event at all last year. To have 33 countries competing this year from as far away as South Africa and Canada was an incredible accomplishment. I don’t even want to think about the logistical hurdles that had to be cleared for countries that came from outside the Schengen Area. Taking these big picture items into consideration, 2021 was unique in MXoN history. I suppose the outcome could be judged depending on the contextual lens you’re looking through—was it an incomplete event not worth having, or a huge accomplishment that brought a global event back with spectators from total cancellation the previous year? I choose to see it as an accomplishment and an amazing opportunity to see motocross. As someone who has lived in Europe for almost a year now and has faced the difficulties of international travel on multiple occasions since moving here, I can’t see it any other way.


Personal Takeaways & Highlights:

The Track

The track layout was beautiful and well groomed. I was shocked the facility was just a 20 minute walk from our BnB in the city center of Mantua, which is incredibly beautiful and packed with things to do. I’m used to motorcross tracks being in the middle of nowhere—not having to deal with driving at all was fantastic.

Italian Rider MXoN 2021

The Weather:

The weather went from hot and sunny Saturday to cool and soggy as hell Sunday. The mud factored into race outcomes and made for plenty of excitement with spectators. The track is situated down in a bowl and spectators more or less look into it from above. Because of this, there were no stands to sit on—just downward sloped grass and mud. Everyone got filthy, but nobody cared.

Muddy Motorcycle
Moto Rider in Rain Pancho

The Atmosphere:

I mentioned there weren’t as many fans as in previous years for reasons that have been well-documented elsewhere, but the fans that did come were all in and weren’t afraid to show it. This created an exciting atmosphere even with rain all day Sunday. You got the strong feeling that people were just pumped to be there and it felt really good to be a part of that energy after over a year of pandemic isolation. I saw several riders interacting with fans directly and happen to be walking by to capture the exchange directly below by GasGas rider Isak Gifting and team Sweden fans. It was a neat experience to see him put his front plate on their saw afterwords.

Motocross of Nations Swedish Team 2021

The Racing:

The racing really couldn’t have been much closer amongst the top three teams points-wise—their wasn’t a ton of sustained bar to bar action on raceday because of roost, but at some point in those situations it becomes all about survival and keeping the goggles I suppose. The weather created a gnarly racing surface with lots of first turn pileups and big points swings due to crashes, penalties, and retirements. It was a nail-biter to the very end (keeping up with the points was difficult because there was no digital scoreboard and everyone was covered in mud) and the whole place erupted when Italy took the title by a single point.

Cairoli:

Just having the opportunity to see Tony Cairoli race on home soil after announcing his retirement at the end of this year was worth the whole trip. I’m sincerely glad he was able to bounce back after the gnarly crash he had just the week before in Sardegna. I’ve always wanted to see him race in person and he is universally loved in Italy—this made the environment around the track both special and exciting the entire time. Seeing him take the track in person and rally back in the second moto from a first turn pileup in the first moto was such a cool experience.

Tony Cairoli's MXoN 2021 motorcycle

Herlings:

I’ve heard about how fast Jeffrey Herlings is for years and have seen the videos of him winning pretty much anywhere he goes. It was exciting and pretty shocking to see him just check out the way he did—especially in the mud during his second moto. Damn he’s smooth and fast!

Jeffery Herling's 2021 MXoN Ride

Ruminations, Questions, Opinions, Futures:

As an American when I think about this year’s MXoN outcome mixed emotions and a myriad of unknowns come to mind. When I get over being bummed and really consider key absences from MXoN this year, my first thought is how many international riders are now more or less permanent fixtures in American motocross and supercross—this certainly impacted what we saw this year just as much or more than the absence of an American Team. It’s hard to know how an American (or Puerto Rican team) would have done—looking at U.S. team results from the past few years coupled with the muddy track conditions who knows. And what about an Australian team??? I can only hope we’ll get to see those things happen not just next year, but in the coming years as well. It’s pretty clear (barring another pandemic catastrophe) scheduling, event prioritization, and proper support for the riders will have to be improved amongst all governing bodies when it comes to getting the right talent on the right teams. Having a 2021 event in the middle of the MXGP season and right at the end of a grueling U.S. motocross season is a tough scheduling pill to swallow. It has been well documented in other places the Americans have had difficulties with team selections because of scheduling commitments in the past. Factoring in that many of the best Americans have been more or less retiring in their mid-20s (most citing burnout) makes things even more difficult, but I digress.

I suspect if you asked the average non-American spectator at this year’s event about the impact of the teams not participating the collective answer would have been—meh. Not because they wouldn’t want to see those riders—I know they would have, but because after the last year and a half people just aren’t surprised by disappointment. Weaponizing that disappointment by not supporting the event is unacceptable in my mind, though. I saw comments on the MXGP instagram leading up the the event that it shouldn’t be held because “nobody will be there.” That’s both inaccurate and unfair for the riders and teams from the international moto community who were in attendance—they had nothing to do with the teams that were unable to attend nor could they change those outcomes. I was incredibly impressed by the venue and the riders—in particular those that already have championships and nothing to prove that put their health at risk in the middle of their MXGP season to race this event. When it all boils down for me, I’m incredibly glad I got to go. The experience just made me want to attend another MXoN in the future—hopefully with all teams in attendance.

📸 + ✍️ + 🌃

Photo dispatches from an American in Italia—a MXoN 2021 intro

Jarred Elrod in his garage with a 1988 Honda XL350 in Italy.

from my garage to yours

Hi everyone 👋 —I recently got the opportunity to snap some photos and do a little writing for VurbMoto as a spectator at this year’s MXoN in Mantua, Italy. I’ve been following VurbMoto for a while. When their team Puerto Rico effort sadly fell though I decided to reach out to see if they wanted to share my images from the event on their site—I explained that I’m in Italy already and am taking my cameras. I got a super nice response back from Brent at VurbMoto shortly after and we were off to the races! My goal for the photos I captured were to be less about race results and more about documenting fan experiences during this unique time—particularly with global events like MXoN.

In planning to do this, I also wanted to share a bit more about my family history with motorsports and talk a little about how my experiences around racebikes and racecars as a child got me interested in design and typography—kind of an intro companion to the event post, if you will. If you ever had me as a teacher you probably heard this story more than once—and I’m sorry about that 😀. This is something I’ve been meaning to get in writing for a few years now and it feels good to finally make it happen. Let’s get into it.

I grew up in rural West Texas on motorcycles and bikes—I got my first BMX at the age of two and my first motorcycle, a PW50 at four. It broke my heart to leave my 2016 XR 650L in storage for our journey to Italy, but as fate would have it I found this amazing 1988 XL350 (⬆️ top photo) at a great local shop called Albatros Moto . I love how short and light the 350 is compared to my 650, but I do miss that push button start!

Photography has always been a big part of what I do as a designer. When I found out MXoN was going to be in Italy this year I knew I wanted to go photograph the experience. I’m bummed the U.S. didn’t field a team, but I’m still really excited I got to go. Since being in Europe, I’ve learned a lot more about the MXGP scene and I really wanted to experience one in-person. Italy had a great team this year for their home race and I wanted to capture the environment with my camera—it was a really neat experience to see them win by one point. With Tony Cairoli retiring after an amazing career, this was a very special moment to see in-person.

Todd Elrod racing motocross in the late 70s and 80s

my history: a family of racers

The images above ⬆️ are my uncle Todd Elrod racing in West Texas in the late 70s and early 80s. He raced through the mid 80s and was always known as one of the fastest guys in the region (he’s still fast on the trail). Looking back at the few photos we have I thought it was interesting he was riding Maico and KTM in an era where Japanese bikes (like the YZ490 he’s riding in the upper right image) were super popular. I asked Todd about this and he told me it was because his dad / mechanic (AKA “papa”) got a kick out of beating people on equipment nobody else wanted to use. This attitude was something I experienced first-hand and adopted later when I was racing go-karts and midgets. I loved it and it always kept things spicy at the track when it came to “altercations” in the pits.

Jarred Elrod as a small child with vintage dirtbikes

all the graphics & colors

I was born in 1985 as my Uncle’s moto career was winding down. Some of my first memories were of his motorcycles and gear. He had a pair of Sinisalo pants with a patch that said “Elrod” stitched in a giant arch across the ass. I thought that was the most amazing thing in the world. I was pretty much obsessed with it all—hell, I still am—especially the stuff from the 80s. The Maico jersey above ⬆️ is a piece I’ve hung onto since I was a kid, but need to send back to my Uncle. It’s an amazing piece of family history. I wish they still made gear that looks like this. That said, it’s super-heavy cotton and maybe some polyester—I’m sure it must have felt like riding in a soaked sweatshirt after a few laps. My stuff now isn’t the best looking, but I imagine it breaths better, at least. That’s Papa ⤴️ with my sister and I on the CR and KX when I was a baby. I’m told I was Mr. Tough Stuff trying to twist the throttle until they fired up the motorcycles, then I was afraid to get close, lol.

Kawasaki riders Ron Lechien and Jeff Ward ↖️ were my favorite growing up because I loved the green Kawasakis and their amazing sense of style. I’m positive being around this stuff (logos, numbers, bright colors, etc…) from a young age sparked my interest in Graphic Design. My dreams were realized in the upper right image when my parents borrowed this amazing Kawi gear from somewhere for me to wear on Halloween. Sadly, it wasn’t permanent and I was back to just jeans and my Fox Pawtectors a few days later.

Elrods Racing Cars

four wheels & a steering wheel, please

While I always rode motorcycles growing up, I went the four-wheel route when it came to racing like my papa and dad did (above left and middle ). I was just naturally better with a steering wheel in my hands—I’ve never been a great rider, but I was always fast in car. That’s me driving the #37, 600CC micro-sprint around 2006 in Oklahoma City above right ↗️. I was just starting my design career at the time and cut my teeth painting and creating the vinyl for our cars—probably no surprise I chose to use Kawi colors here against the advice of my Papa, citing green as unlucky in racing. We were really fast, but blew up several Kawi motors that year, so I guess he was probably right. I went orange, cream, and black for the next year.

the experience of riding in Italy

Riding on the streets around here is an interesting experience for sure. Your head definitely has to be on an extra-oiled swivel at all times, but the curvy roads and general lack of traffic police make cruising the mountain backroads an amazing experience. I also like how it’s easier to see from the motorcycle and squeeze through tight spaces than it is in our car. There are no shortage of trails and rocky river beds for enduro riding, although I will say it’s tough to tell which trails are moto-OK and NOT OK (definitely been screamed at in Italian a few times). I’m meeting locals that are teaching me where the good spots are, but I still have so much to learn. Because of this, I spend a most of my two-wheel fun time on my mountain bike. It might be tough moving back to anywhere flat after this! That’s probably enough for now, but I’m building a version of the post that went to VurbMoto here that has more photos. Say tuned!
—jarred

📸 + ✍️ + 🌃